The Effect of Culturally-Focused Batterer Counseling on the Retention of African American Men Arrested for Domestic Violence

Edward W. Gondolf, Mid - Atlantic Addiction Training Inst.

Clinicians and researchers have recommend culturally-focused counseling for African Americans as a way to increase retention and improve outcomes for counseling in general. Research on the effect of culturally-focused counseling is, however, very limited and inconclusive. Racial identification may influence the impact of such specialized counseling. In a multi-site evaluation of conventional domestic violence counseling, African American men dropped out at a slightly higher rate and were more twice as likely to be re-arrested. However, there has been only one small exploratory study of culturally-focused counseling applied to African American men arrested for domestic violence (n=49). A clinical trial of culturally-focused domestic violence counseling was conducted to test the effect of this approach on retention of African-American men as a first step in a more extensive outcome evaluation. Six-hundred men referred by the courts to a domestic violence counseling program in Pittsburgh were randomly assigned to one of three options: a racially-mixed conventional batterer counseling group, a conventional counseling group with only African-American men, and a culturally-focused counseling group with only African-American men. The conventional counseling employs a highly structured cognitive-behavioral approach, and the culturally-focused counseling follows a curriculum of cultural topics (i.e., what it means to be an African American man and African Americans' opinions of the criminal justice system) in a discussion or process-oriented approach. Counseling retention is based on the number of required group sessions the men have attended according to standardized program records. The minimum required number of weekly sessions for all the options is 16 over a four-month duration. The analysis compares the retention rates for the three options, and also examines the influence of racial identity on the option outcome. Racial identity is measured using the Racial Identity Scale administered at program intake.

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Updated 05/20/2006